Biology – Plant Biology Major Guide for 2011-2012

What is Biology – Plant Biology

Plant Biology is the study of plants at all levels, from ecosystems and communities to the cellular, subcellular and molecular levels. Plant Biologists seek to understand questions related to the ability of plants to interact with each other and with other organisms, and to respond to their environment. Plants are the primary means of converting energy from the sun into usable energy that most forms of life depend upon. A fundamental knowledge of plants is necessary for success in any field of plant science. Those concerned with water and air pollution, land conservation, landscaping and preserving nature must have a basic understanding of plant biology to be effective in their work. Uniquely situated in the richest natural botanical region of the eastern U.S., the Department of Botany has enjoyed regional and national reputations in both undergraduate and graduate studies in basic plant sciences. The department has developed during the past decade with expanded offerings in modern plant genetics, molecular biology, physiology, cell biology, and tissue culture to balance the traditional strengths in systematics, evolution, ecology and natural history.

Career Opportunities in Biology – Plant Biology

One of the most attractive features about a major in Plant Biology is the wide variety of career opportunities from which to choose. The concentration in Plant Biology is designed to furnish necessary experience in academic and practical skills to prepare graduates for immediate entry into the job market or for continuing graduate education in pure or applied biological sciences.
The curriculum design ensures strong grounding in the sciences, with primary emphasis in the plant sciences. Some examples of possible careers include middle and high school teaching, college and university teaching and research, conservation, environmental and park service work, laboratory technician or research assistant in academic or private sector settings, nursery and greenhouse operations, forestry, indoor and outdoor aquarium maintenance, botanical garden management, scientific writing, botanical photography, scientific and pharmaceutical consultant or sales representatives, pharmacy, and academic and private sector jobs as professional scientists. All of these careers and more may have their origins in the study of plant biology.

Salary Trends in Biology – Plant Biology

Salaries for life scientists have kept pace with inflation in recent years. An entry level B.S. graduate can expect to be paid between $20,000 and $30,000 during the first year. The National Association of Colleges and Employers’ Survey revealed that the average salary for a biological sciences major in 1999 to be $29,600 for BS graduates. Some examples cited from a 1993 survey [ cosam/bio.html] ranged from $15,000 to $125,000+, with a mode of approxi­mately $35,000: $33,091 for technologists and technicians in the biological/life sciences; $35,746 for Biological scientists; The Penn State Biology Newsletter (2001) reported the average offer for biology and life sciences undergraduates was $29,074. Research jobs are primarily centered in academics, government and industry. Government and Industry generally pay higher salaries than academic jobs. In general, salaries increase with increased levels of education. For example higher salaries can be anticipated for MS and Ph.D. graduates. For academic careers, examples of recent salary aver­ages for faculty are Professor $72,765; Assoc. Professor $55,334; Asst. Professor $44,909.

High School Preparation

Your high school preparation will have a tremendous impact on your pace and success in completing a B.S. degree in Biology. As soon as you decide that Biology is your calling, your choice of classes can greatly affect your success in college. Immerse yourself in the sciences and math. You should take as much Biology as your high school offers. Select classes that are ranked as college preparatory or advanced placement [AP]. Chemistry, Physics, and Math [Algebra through PreCalculus or Calculus] are collateral subjects that, taken during high school, will provide the necessary background for stepping directly into college-level courses. Basic courses in computing [word processing, spreadsheet management, and database management], analytical thinking, and introductory statistics are desirable.

How to Major in Biology – Plant Biology

Students may declare a Biological Sciences major after completing the pre­requisite courses, Chemistry 120-130 and Biology 111-112 or Biology 130, with a minimum grade of C.
Students wishing to declare a major in Biological Sciences will be assigned a faculty advisor in one of the biological sciences departments in consultation with the student. Declaration of a Biological Sciences major should occur as soon as the student decides on this course of study, but not later than three semesters before the expected graduation date in order to ensure that requirements can be met in a timely manner.

Requirements for Biology – Plant Biology

The Plant Biology concentration consists of 29-34 hours including

  • Chemistry 350-360-369 or 350, 310-319, or 310-319 and Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 310;
  • Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 321; Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 330, 400 (1-4 hours), 410, 490 (1-2 hours);
  • plus 9 additional hours of other upper-division courses offered by life science departments (except Biochemistry and Cellular and Molecular Biology 306, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 304, 309)

A list of approved courses from other life science departments is available in the Division of Biology office.

An honors option is available to students who meet the requirements listed below:

  • a GPA of 3.5 in all the 300-level and above courses from the concentration and an overall GPA of 3.2
  • a minimum of 4 hours of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology 400 (undergraduate research) during the junior and senior year
  • a senior thesis that is acceptable to the student’s committee

Special Programs, Co-ops, and Internships

The Department of Botany encourages all of its undergraduate majors to engage in field and laboratory research projects in conjunction with ongoing faculty research projects.
In a research setting, working closely with graduate students, post doctoral fellows and faculty members, students are able to apply knowledge that they have learned in the classroom to the solution of real world problems.  Opportunities are frequently available for paid laboratory, field or greenhouse work. Superior students may be eligible for paid undergraduate teaching assistantships.

Highlights of Biology – Plant Biology

The Plant Biology track of the Biology Major offers students an opportunity to take both field and laboratory-based classes with faculty members who are dedicated teacher scholars. Faculty members in the Department of Botany are nationally and internationally recognized scholars working in a variety of areas of Plant Biology including cellular, molecular and developmental biology; floristic and systematic biology; genetics, genomics, population and evolutionary biology and the biology of plant-microbe interactions.

Ready for the World logoReady for the World

“Ready for the World” is part of a long-range plan to transform the UTK campus into a culture of diversity that best prepares students for working and competing in the 21st century.  Thus students are encouraged to actively participate in the diverse cultural programs offered on campus.  Some of these events include the guest lecture series, cultural nights at the International House, and international film screenings.  Visit the Center for International Education web site ( or the Ready for the World web site ( for more information on upcoming cultural programs and activities.
Students are also encouraged to develop a global perspective within their academic program through study abroad.  Visit the Programs Abroad Office web site ( for information on study abroad opportunities.

Learn more about UT’s Ready for the World initiative to help students gain the international and intercultural knowledge they need to succeed in today’s world.

Sample Curriculum

Following this four-year plan will help you stay on track to graduate in four years.  Milestone courses have been identified as the minimum courses that must be completed.

Freshman Year Credit Hours
English Composition 6
Chemistry 120, 130 8
Math 141-142 or Math 151, 152 6-8
Biology 130 or Biology 111-112 4-8
Biology 140 4
Milestone courses: English 101, Biology 130 or 111 or Chemistry 120, and Math 130 or higher
Sophomore Year Credit Hours
Biology 240, 250 8
Chemistry 350, 360, 369; or 350, 310-319; or 310-319 and BCMB 310 7-8
Foreign Language 6
Arts and Humanities 3
Social Sciences 6
Milestone courses: English 102, elementary foreign language proficiency, Chemistry 130, Biology 130 or 111-112, Biology 140 and Math 141 or 151
Junior Year Credit Hours
Electives 0-4
Physics 221-222 8
BCMB 321 or EEB 463 3-4
EEB 330, 410 7
EEB 400 or 452 1
Arts and Humanities 3
Communicating Orally 3
Senior Year Credit Hours
EEB (major) 10-12
Non-US History Sequence 6
Upper Level Distribution 6
Upper Division Electives 6
Communicating Through Writing 3
GRAND TOTAL (minimum) 120

For More Information

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(865) 974-2256



The information on this page should be considered general information only. For more specific information on this and other programs refer to the UT catalog or contact the department and/or college directly.